104 MARCH/APRIL 2019 | BETHESDAMAGAZINE.COM
Dani, then a junior at Winston Churchill
Following the mass shooting that killed
17 students and staff members in
Parkland, Florida, in early 2018, Dani
Miller wanted to take part in the National
School Walkout to protest gun violence.
High School in Potomac, couldn’t find
anyone at the school organizing a
walkout, so she did it herself.
Within a couple of weeks, she had
teamed up with students from the county
to form a group now known as MoCo
for Change. The group orchestrated a
walkout and a march on the Capitol,
soliciting the donation of a fleet of
buses and hundreds of Metro cards to
transport nearly 3,000 teens. MoCo for
Change has remained active under her
leadership, holding voter registration
drives, participating in rallies and
protests, and lobbying for gun control.
Time magazine chose Dani, who
lives in Potomac, to be part of its iconic
“Guns in America” cover last fall. She
received the 2018 Peacemaker of the
Year Award from the Metro D.C.-Baltimore
chapter of Pax Christi, an organization
that promotes nonviolence. “It bothered
me that no one [at Churchill] was doing
anything after Parkland, so I thought,
‘Why not me?’ ” says Dani, 18, who is
co-president of MoCo for Change.
She is also president of Churchill’s
Slam Poetry Club, and frequently
performs with the DC Youth Slam Team.
Her academic tutor, Llacey Simmons,
says Dani has inspired her and her
family to become more active in their
community and to get more involved in
issues they care about. After Simmons’
6-year-old son listened to a recording of
one of Dani’s speeches, he raised more
than $1,000 to help the homeless by
calling friends and family, and through
requests for donations on his mother’s
Facebook page. “He was inspired to see
someone ‘young like him,’ and wants
to be just like Dani when he grows up,”
Simmons says. “She’s not just a model
A student—she’s a force for change.”
Dani will attend Pitzer College in
Claremont, California. She hopes to
become a documentary filmmaker.
Senior, Winston Churchill
“Over the years, she has grown into a role where she comfortably speaks with members of
When Andrea Aresta-Katz was 12, a family friend with the neurological disorder dystonia became
unable to walk. Andrea’s mother told her that the girl’s insurance company had denied paying
for a procedure that could have eased her symptoms. There are many forms of dystonia, but
generally it is characterized by involuntary muscle spasms. Andrea has dystonia herself, but a
far less debilitating and more treatable form. When she heard about her friend’s predicament,
Andrea says she became “infuriated.”
That year, Andrea participated in the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation’s Dystonia
Awareness Day, joining a group of volunteers to educate members of Congress about the
condition and to advocate for more research funding. The Chevy Chase teen has discovered a
passion for medicine and genetics.
Congress and staff, especially explaining the impact on young patients and families desperate
for help,” says Jessica Feeley, editor and special projects coordinator for the foundation.
When she was 14, Andrea noticed that some lawmakers seemed bored during the foundation
volunteers’ verbal presentations. So she produced a video featuring a teen with dystonia struggling
to overcome the condition, then benefiting from technology, including a surgically implanted brain
stimulator. It is shown annually to legislators on Dystonia Awareness Day.
Andrea, now 18, has organized other fundraisers for the foundation, including an ice skating
night in Silver Spring. Along with her sister, she creates and sells handmade soaps, and donates
10 percent of the profits to the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation. She has interned with
the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, where she coded genetic
data to be used as a baseline for artificial intelligence. She also spent a summer at the Kennedy
Krieger Institute in Baltimore, where she shadowed doctors and genetic counselors, and cut and
froze spinal cords from mice to be used by researchers.
Andrea, who is also an accomplished equestrian, hopes to become a genetic counselor.
ANDREA ARESTA-KATZ Senior, Sandy Spring Friends School